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Stewart undecided on racing at MIS

08/12/2014, 12:00am EDT
By RACHEL LENZI BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Track death not criminal at this point

Stewart undecided on racing at MIS

A memorial has sprung up at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Canandaigua, N.Y., where Kevin Ward, Jr., was killed on Saturday. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tony Stewart has not announced whether he will drive this weekend in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, but in an email to The Blade on Monday, his spokesman said the decision to compete will rest with Stewart.

"The decision to compete in this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan will be Tony’s, and he will have as much time as he needs to make that decision," Mike Arning, director of communication of True Speed Communication, wrote in an email to The Blade. "It is still an emotional time for all involved, Tony included. He is grieving, and grief doesn’t have a timetable.‎"

Stewart was involved in the death of Kevin Ward, Jr., following an on-track collision Saturday night at a dirt track in Canandaigua, N.Y. Stewart did not drive in the Cheez-it 355 at Watkins Glen International.

The Pure Michigan 400 is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, and qualifying is at 4:40 p.m. Friday on the 2-mile superspeedway in Brooklyn, Mich.

Ontario (N.Y.) County Sheriff Philip Povero said in a live-streamed news conference on Monday that no criminal charges are currently pending against Stewart, but an investigation into Ward’s death remains open. Povero said an autopsy by the Ontario County coroner revealed that Ward died of massive blunt trauma.

“At this time, there are no facts that exist that support any criminal behavior or conduct or any probable cause of a criminal act in this investigation,” Povero said.

Amateur video footage posted and circulated online showed that Stewart’s sprint car collided with Ward’s car, which went into the wall at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. With the race under caution, the 20-year-old Ward got out of his car and ran toward the middle of the dimly lit track, pointing as Stewart's car approached. Stewart appeared to maneuver his car out of the way as Ward stood on the track, but the car made contact with Ward.

In a matter of seconds, ambulances and medical personnel began to treat Ward on the track. Ward was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital at 11:15 p.m. on Saturday, 45 minutes after the accident.

Stewart has already canceled one appearance at a short track this weekend. ‎Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway — about 25 miles south of South Bend, Ind. — said in a statement on its Web site late Sunday night that Stewart will not race Saturday in a sprint car race at the track in his home state.‎

Regan Smith drove Sunday‎ at Watkins Glen in place of Stewart. Smith finished 37th after he was involved in a four-car wreck on the 82nd lap of the Cheez-It 355.

“It's a tough time for everybody,” AJ Allmendinger said after he won Sunday’s Cheez-It 355. “The NASCAR community, as a whole we're a family, and when anything like that happens, it's something that you don't just kind of erase and you forget about. And all of our thoughts and prayers, and it may not seem like it, or I wish there was more to do, but it goes to the Ward family and what happened. It also goes to Tony because it's not like he's sitting there and forgetting about it. It's a tough scenario.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

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